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    The foundation of Japanese explained

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    cuivien

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    The foundation of Japanese explained

    Post by cuivien on Thu Jan 17, 2013 5:12 am

    According to Tim Ferris, author of several popular books including "The 4-hour body", pretty much any language can be de-constructed by asking a native speaker how they would say the following 13 (originally 12, plus one) sentences in their own language:


    - The apple is red
    - It is Bill's apple
    - I give Bill the apple
    - We give him the apple
    - He gives it to Bill
    - She gives it to Bill
    - Is the apple red?
    - The apples are red
    - I must give it to him
    - I want to give it to her
    - I'm going to know tomorrow
    (- I have eaten the apple)
    - I can't eat the apple



    By way of these, pretty much all the important grammar including sentence structure plus conjugations and auxiliaries, are explained.
    So, here's the translation I would give for Japanese (I've given them in normal, polite language. Several more or less casual ways of conjugating verbs exist):


    - リンゴは赤いです*
    ringo ha akai desu
    apple TOPIC red COPULA
    - それはビルのリンゴです
    sore ha Biru no ringo desu
    that/it TOPIC Bill GENITIVE apple COPULA
    - 私はビルにリンゴをあげます
    watashi ha Biru ni ringo wo agemasu
    I TOPIC Bill DATIVE apple ACCUSATIVE give-NONPAST
    - 私達はビルにリンゴをあげます
    watashi-tachi ha Biru ni ringo wo agemasu
    We (lit: I-plural) TOPIC Bill DATIVE apple ACCUSATIVE give-NONPAST
    - 彼はそれをビルにあげます
    kare ha sore wo Biru ni agemasu
    He TOPIC that ACCUSATIVE Bill DATIVE give-NONPAST
    - 彼女はそれを彼にあげます
    kanojo ha sore wo kare ni agemasu
    she TOPIC that ACCUSATIVE he DATIVE give-NONPAST
    - リンゴは赤いですか?
    ringo ha akai desu ka
    apple TOPIC red COPULA QUESTION
    - リンゴは赤いです
    ringo ha akai desu
    Apple TOPIC red COPULA
    - 私はそれを彼にあげなければいけません
    watashi ha sore wo kare ni age-nakerebaikemasen
    I TOPIC that ACCUSATIVE he DATIVE give-must (lit: give-if-cannot)
    - 私は彼女にそれをあげたい
    watashi ha kanojo ni sore wo age-tai
    I TOPIC she DATIVE that ACCUSATIVE give-want
    - 私は明日に分かります**
    watashi ha ashita ni wakarimasu
    I TOPIC tomorrow DATIVE know
    (- 私はリンゴを食べました)
    watashi ha ringo wo tabe-mashita
    I TOPIC apple ACCUSATIVE eat-past
    - 私はリンゴを食べることができない***
    watashi ha ringo wo tabe-ru koto ga deki-nai
    I TOPIC apple ACCUSATIVE eat-nonpast thing SUBJECT can do-not

    Alternatives:
    * リンゴが赤いです ringo ga akai desu
    the difference is between "ha", a topic marker, and "ga", the subject marker. basically it has to do with where the focus of the sentence is...
    ** 私は明日に分かるようになります watashi ha ashita ni wakaru you ni narimasu
    this would translate more like "somehow I will come into that state of knowing tomorrow"
    *** 私はリンゴが食べられません watashi ha ringo ga tabe-rare-masen
    these two basically mean the same, the difference is that here the verb is conjugated using potential form


    BTW, I'm not native, but I'm a linguistics major and I've passed JLPT1, which is the highest level of governmental standard Japanese language test besides a specific one for business Japanese and another one if you want to be a state-registered translator... :-)
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    cuivien

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    Re: The foundation of Japanese explained

    Post by cuivien on Thu Jan 17, 2013 5:14 am

    short update as of 21.01.2013:


    Okay, so I've been busy at work, but today is relaxed enough to let me begin writing a bit here.


    The following things are some of the key features of Japanese, gleaned from the 13 example sentences above:
    - Japanese uses post-positions (otherwise known as "particles") to note the case of a noun or NP
    (example: 昨日会った友達のジェンナと呼ばれた新彼女がかわいいな; kinou atta tomodachi no Jenna to yobareta shin-kanojo ga kawaii na; yesterday meet-PAST friend GENITIVE Jenna(name) be-called new-girlfriend SUBJECT cute EMPHASIZE; "Jenna, the new girlfriend of the friend I met yesterday is really cute")
    - General sentence structure seems to be Subject-Object-Verb (I say seems to be because this is the most commonly found one, but actually things can be shifted around to the extreme as long as one keeps the post-positions)
    - Inflection only takes place on adjectives and verbs
    - There is no future tense, one simply adds a time reference to the sentence and use the present tense (and indeed the Japanese some times refer to present tense as "non-past")
    - There are no auxiliaries (this is a slightly simplified truth, but good enough for beginners)
    - Japanese uses 3 different types of script


    I'll add more later..


    Last edited by cuivien on Mon Jan 21, 2013 9:09 pm; edited 1 time in total
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    BillC

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    Re: The foundation of Japanese explained

    Post by BillC on Thu Jan 17, 2013 7:35 am

    cuivien wrote:BTW, I'm not native, but I'm a linguistics major and I've passed JLPT1, which is the highest level of governmental standard Japanese language test besides a specific one for business Japanese and another one if you want to be a state-registered translator... :-)

    In my limited JLPT 4 experience ... what you write is applicable to males. Females, especially cute office ladies, only need two words ... "kawaii ..." and "sugoi!" ... the latter of which indeed applies to anyone who passes the JLPT1 ... native speakers included.
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    cuivien

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    Re: The foundation of Japanese explained

    Post by cuivien on Mon Jan 21, 2013 9:17 pm

    BillC wrote:
    cuivien wrote:BTW, I'm not native, but I'm a linguistics major and I've passed JLPT1, which is the highest level of governmental standard Japanese language test besides a specific one for business Japanese and another one if you want to be a state-registered translator... :-)

    In my limited JLPT 4 experience ... what you write is applicable to males. Females, especially cute office ladies, only need two words ... "kawaii ..." and "sugoi!" ... the latter of which indeed applies to anyone who passes the JLPT1 ... native speakers included.


    Indeed. If you're a cute office lady, getting by with just a small number of words is a breeze. In addition to kawaii (かわいい) and sugoi (すごい), you just need arigatou gozaimasu (ありがとうございます) for when you're being praised, and sumimasen (すみません) for when you screw up. Oh, and maybe sore ha chotto... (それはちょっと…) for politely declining invitations from people on your own level or lower (if they are higher up, accepting and later on welcoming their sexual innuendos are pretty much the only way of staying in the company) ;-)
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    Cichorei Kano

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    Re: The foundation of Japanese explained

    Post by Cichorei Kano on Mon Jan 21, 2013 11:33 pm

    cuivien wrote:
    BillC wrote:
    cuivien wrote:BTW, I'm not native, but I'm a linguistics major and I've passed JLPT1, which is the highest level of governmental standard Japanese language test besides a specific one for business Japanese and another one if you want to be a state-registered translator... :-)

    In my limited JLPT 4 experience ... what you write is applicable to males. Females, especially cute office ladies, only need two words ... "kawaii ..." and "sugoi!" ... the latter of which indeed applies to anyone who passes the JLPT1 ... native speakers included.


    Indeed. If you're a cute office lady, getting by with just a small number of words is a breeze. In addition to kawaii (かわいい) and sugoi (すごい), you just need arigatou gozaimasu (ありがとうございます) for when you're being praised, and sumimasen (すみません) for when you screw up. Oh, and maybe sore ha chotto... (それはちょっと…) for politely declining invitations from people on your own level or lower (if they are higher up, accepting and later on welcoming their sexual innuendos are pretty much the only way of staying in the company) ;-)

    You forgot "honto ni ?" and "eeh" although it is possible that only I get those !! Laughing


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    "Nothing is as approved as mediocrity, the majority has established it and it fixes it fangs on whatever gets beyond it either way." (Blaise Pascal)
    "Quand on essaie, c'est difficile. Quand on n'essaie pas, c'est impossible" (Guess Who ?)
    "I am never wrong. Once I thought I was, and that was a mistake."
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    cuivien

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    Re: The foundation of Japanese explained

    Post by cuivien on Tue Jan 22, 2013 12:39 am

    Cichorei Kano wrote:
    cuivien wrote:
    BillC wrote:
    cuivien wrote:BTW, I'm not native, but I'm a linguistics major and I've passed JLPT1, which is the highest level of governmental standard Japanese language test besides a specific one for business Japanese and another one if you want to be a state-registered translator... :-)

    In my limited JLPT 4 experience ... what you write is applicable to males. Females, especially cute office ladies, only need two words ... "kawaii ..." and "sugoi!" ... the latter of which indeed applies to anyone who passes the JLPT1 ... native speakers included.


    Indeed. If you're a cute office lady, getting by with just a small number of words is a breeze. In addition to kawaii (かわいい) and sugoi (すごい), you just need arigatou gozaimasu (ありがとうございます) for when you're being praised, and sumimasen (すみません) for when you screw up. Oh, and maybe sore ha chotto... (それはちょっと…) for politely declining invitations from people on your own level or lower (if they are higher up, accepting and later on welcoming their sexual innuendos are pretty much the only way of staying in the company) ;-)

    You forgot "honto ni ?" and "eeh" although it is possible that only I get those !! Laughing
    ah, yes. Especially the last one, in a overly high pitch. Do you have a lot of cute OL's where you work? The number is sadly way, way too low over here :-(
    (for those who do not speak the language, hontou ni (本当に) is pretty equivalent to "really". "eeh" speaks for it self I should think)


    on a side note, CK... when I saw that you had replied I was sure it had something to do with the example sentence in post #2 ('Laughing')
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    Re: The foundation of Japanese explained

    Post by Cichorei Kano on Tue Jan 22, 2013 1:02 am

    cuivien wrote:
    Cichorei Kano wrote:
    cuivien wrote:
    BillC wrote:
    cuivien wrote:BTW, I'm not native, but I'm a linguistics major and I've passed JLPT1, which is the highest level of governmental standard Japanese language test besides a specific one for business Japanese and another one if you want to be a state-registered translator... :-)

    In my limited JLPT 4 experience ... what you write is applicable to males. Females, especially cute office ladies, only need two words ... "kawaii ..." and "sugoi!" ... the latter of which indeed applies to anyone who passes the JLPT1 ... native speakers included.


    Indeed. If you're a cute office lady, getting by with just a small number of words is a breeze. In addition to kawaii (かわいい) and sugoi (すごい), you just need arigatou gozaimasu (ありがとうございます) for when you're being praised, and sumimasen (すみません) for when you screw up. Oh, and maybe sore ha chotto... (それはちょっと…) for politely declining invitations from people on your own level or lower (if they are higher up, accepting and later on welcoming their sexual innuendos are pretty much the only way of staying in the company) ;-)

    You forgot "honto ni ?" and "eeh" although it is possible that only I get those !! Laughing
    ah, yes. Especially the last one, in a overly high pitch. Do you have a lot of cute OL's where you work? The number is sadly way, way too low over here :-(
    (for those who do not speak the language, hontou ni (本当に) is pretty equivalent to "really". "eeh" speaks for it self I should think)


    on a side note, CK... when I saw that you had replied I was sure it had something to do with the example sentence in post #2 ('Laughing')

    No, and I don't think that かわいい was the most accurate term, maybe better 悪い ...


    _________________


    "The world is a republic of mediocrities, and always was." (Thomas Carlyle)
    "Nothing is as approved as mediocrity, the majority has established it and it fixes it fangs on whatever gets beyond it either way." (Blaise Pascal)
    "Quand on essaie, c'est difficile. Quand on n'essaie pas, c'est impossible" (Guess Who ?)
    "I am never wrong. Once I thought I was, and that was a mistake."
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    NBK

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    Re: The foundation of Japanese explained

    Post by NBK on Sat Feb 09, 2013 8:11 am

    Great stuff, don't derail Culvien.
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    cuivien

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    Re: The foundation of Japanese explained

    Post by cuivien on Tue Feb 12, 2013 1:55 am

    Getting back on track then.

    The following post will say a couple of things about the way a sentence is construed in Japanese.
    Note: this is taken from my old MA thesis and only edited slightly, so bear with the terminology.
    ---

    Following standard terminology and thinking, we define English as a SVO language where
    the basic transformation rules are something like below:

    a. S -> NP VP
    b. VP -> V NP (NP)
    However, as Japanese is a verb-final language (whose basic structure is explained to be SOV in the above posts), these rules
    must be slightly rewritten, as done here:

    a. S -> NP VP
    b. VP -> NP V

    Furthermore, Japanese employs postpositions otherwise known as particles denoting grammatical cases such as genitive, dative and so on. This tight relationship between NPs and the postpositions allow an almost completely free word order, demonstrated below. In normal sentences, "subjects appear sentence-initially, but when other elements are emphasized, they can be moved about" (Kuno: 1973: 214).

    a. Tomoko-ga Kengo-ni hon-wo yat-ta.
    Name-NOM name-DAT book-ACC give-PAST
    "Tomoko gave Kengo a book"
    b. Tomoko-ga hon-wo Kengo-ni yat-ta.
    c. Kengo-ni Tomoko-ga hon-wo yat-ta.
    d. Kengo-ni hon-wo Tomoko-ga yat-ta.
    e. Hon-wo Tomoko-ga Kengo-ni yat-ta.
    f. Hon-wo Kengo-ni Tomoko-ga yat-ta.

    All of the sentences listed above describe the same event, namely that a person (Tomoko) gives an item (a book) to another person (Kengo). All of the sentences are also perfectly valid
    in Japanese (although some are less common than others). In addition to this, oral speech employs a variety of rightwards movement (beyond the verb) for emphasis, so that we can
    have sentences like hon-wo yat-ta, Tomoko-ga which literally say in very Yoda-like fashion "gave a book, Tomoko".

    However, an "ordinary" unmarked word order does exist. Hinds (1982), in line with cognitive grammar and its constructional schemas, states elegantly that "every verbal in Japanese has a case frame, a knowledge of which facilitates certain instances of ellipsis" (Hinds 1982:8 ). With this in mind, he presents a number of examples, before boiling the information down to four basic types of sentence patterns, reproduced below with an example accompanying each type.

    a. [NP ga NP wo] VP(TRANSITIVE)
    b. [NP ni NP ga] VP(ERGATIVE) [sic]
    c. [NP ga] VP(INTRANSITIVE)
    d. [NP ga NP ni NP wo] VP(DITRANSITIVE)
    (ibid 1982: 17)

    a. [NP Mariko-ga NP sashimi-wo] VP tabe-ta
    "Mariko ate some sashimi"
    b. [NP Kazuhiko-ni NP eigo-ga] VP waka-ru
    "Kazuhiko can understand English"
    c. [NP doa-ga] VP aite-i-ru
    "The door is open"
    d. [NP Yoshi-ga NP kare-ni NP are-wo] VP mise-ta
    "Yoshi showed that to him"

    Although there might be long adverbial phrases or committed sentences within, these are the
    basic structures. Let us briefly demonstrate this by providing a longer sentence for analysis:

    Imagoro kaisha-de hisshi-ni hatarai-te-i-ru yatsu-ra-no sugata-wo omoi-ukabe-te Satoshi-ga hana-de warat-ta.
    "Around now" company-LOC frantic-DAT work-GER-be-NONP guy-PLURAL-GEN shape-ACC "call to mind"-GER Satoshi-NOM nose-INSTR laugh-PAST

    Even though this is a fairly long sentence, it can be simplified and reorganized, removing some of the contextual information. For example: [NP Satoshi-ga] [VP [NP yatsu-ra-no sugata-wo] omoi-ukabe-te] [VP warat-ta], "Satsohi thought of the people (at the company) and laughed", can be simplified further into: [NP Satoshi-ga] [VP warat-ta], "Satoshi laughed". The rest is just additional information, not necessary for understanding the essence of the sentence.

    Furthermore, these sentence patterns do not change as the sentence type changes. As examples below demonstrates (we have also seen this in the original post), there is no need for intricate movement-theories or multi-level representations.

    English:
    a. I‘m taking Bill to the party tonight.
    b. Who are you taking to the party tonight?

    Japanese
    a. Konya-no pātī-ni Biru-wo tsure-te-ik-u.
    Tonight-GEN party-DAT Bill-ACC "take (living being)"-GER-go-NONP
    "I‘m taking Bill to the party tonight."
    b. Konya-no pātī-ni dare-wo tsure-te-ik-u-no?
    Tonight-GEN party-DAT who-ACC "take (living being)"-GER-go-NONP-EM
    "Who are you taking to the party tonight?"

    ---

    In the next installment, I'll talk a bit about the writing systems of Japanese

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